cover image Fortuny


Pere Gimferrer, trans. from the Catalan by Adrian Nathan West. Godine, $17.95 trade paper (136p) ISBN 978-1-56792-550-0

First published in Catalan in 1983, Gimferrer’s tribute to the art of the nonfictional Fortuny family is less a novel than a series of interwoven prose poems packed with lush imagery evoking the aesthetics of the Belle Epoque and successive decades. If there is a plot, it concerns the demise of sensuous excess in favor of technology, rich colors to black and gray. The opening chapter focuses on works by patriarch Mariano Fortuny y Marsal, beginning with his painting The Odalisque, then moving on to the Battle of Tetuán and Arab Shoeing a Horse, ending with a self-portrait. Later segments depict beauties such as Eleonora Duse, Emilienne d’Alençon, and Dolores Del Rio, draped in designs by Fortuny’s son, Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo. Readers view paintings, photographs, opulent fabrics, and curious objets d’art, as if browsing at the Fortunys’ Venetian palazzo. Such creative geniuses as Henry James, Marcel Proust, Gabriele d’Annunzio, and Richard Wagner are shown in moments of inspiration. Famous, infamous, and forgotten people alike are observed, often posed or in disguise. Gimferrer arrays his succinct, elegant word-pictures like pleats in a Fortuny gown, resulting in a slim tour de force. Octavio Paz’s introduction, another marvel of poetic prose, offers readers a welcome guide through Gimferrer’s gallery of bygone beauty. (June)